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Wed 9th Jun 2021 - Update: Lockdown easing, Camile Thai, SSP Group, football and Dhillon’s Brewery
Fears of unlocking in name only, with covid laws to be replaced by ‘stringent guidance’: Fears are growing that lockdown laws could be replaced with a web of restrictive guidance later this month in what has been dubbed by critics a “smoke and mirrors” reopening, reports The Telegraph. Government ministers still hope that, if the covid-19 data allows, the law enshrining the current lockdown rules will expire at the end of the month as planned. That legislation limits the number of people who can gather to a group to six people, two households indoors or 30 people outdoors. However, some MPs and industry figures fear that even if the legal requirements are lifted, a web of stringent guidance could be put in its place, encouraging people to act as if in lockdown. Doubt remains about whether the 21 June reopening in England will happen as originally planned, with Downing Street awaiting more covid data later this week before making the decision – to be announced on Monday. In particular, plans for nightclubs to be allowed to open on that date are in doubt, with concerns about covid spreading on packed dance floors.

Two days before Propel Premium subscribers receive first edition of new sector turnover and profit database, 69 companies making a profit of £1m plus: The first edition of a new database for Premium subscribers, The Blue Book, to be released at midday on Friday (11 June), shows 69 companies making a pre-tax profit at least £1m. Meanwhile, the top ten UK foodservice companies make a combined £727m pre-tax profit The Blue Book shows McDonald’s has been the most profitable company in the UK for the past five years by some distance – it made more than half of the £727m made by the top ten companies. The new database, which will be updated and expanded each month, ranks the top 215 sector operators by turnover and then by profitability. It also has a five-year overview of turnover and profit and shows what percentage of turnover is converted to pre-tax profit – or otherwise. Each month, Propel will be expanding the scope of The Blue Book – we want to add any company either turning over more than £5m or making a £1m pre-tax profit. Email to add your company to The Blue Book universe. Charity said: “The Blue Book will start to show the devastating impact of the pandemic on company profitability but, in due course, will chart the sector’s bounce back. It’s a fascinating document.” Propel Premium subscribers have just received their monthly update to the multi-site database, which has had 108 companies added since the last release at the end of May. They not only received the database as a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet, they were also sent a 14,000-word report on the businesses added during May. The go-to database, which now features 1,822 companies that collectively operate 59,197 sites, provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. A single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.

Pub bosses cheer for Euro 2020-driven recovery as ‘Freedom Day’ hangs in the balance: Pub bosses have appealed for the easing of covid restrictions across the UK, saying the delayed Euro 2020 football championship offers the perfect opportunity to help the industry and beyond recover. Sky News reports that the chief executives of Young’s and Greene King were among those to speak out amid jitters that the final step on the roadmap for England to exit covid-19 rules – currently pencilled in for 21 June – is under threat from a resurgence in cases, led by the Delta (or Indian) variant. The hospitality sector as a whole is expecting a boost to business as summer weather takes hold after over a year of stop-start disruption to business. Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie said: “There is a real risk that restrictions may remain in place, meaning that pubs will be unable to trade profitably as crucial financial support falls away. If that happens, the impact on pubs will be huge and it’s going to be a real struggle for many to survive. The reality is that we can’t continue in this limbo indefinitely. We are relying on the Euros and the summer to begin rebuilding and without the ability to do that, it is imperative that the government continues to provide support to save the sector, especially by extending the business rates holiday and removing the cap which will affect so many businesses.” His counterpart at Young’s, Patrick Dardis, added: “If the government continues to make decisions at very short notice and not engage properly with businesses, uncertainty will prevail and confidence will deteriorate.” He said of England’s restrictions: “Having delivered against the four criteria for reopening, there is no reason that Freedom Day should be delayed beyond 21 June. We need strong leadership from the government to save jobs and ensure the UK’s economic recovery continues.”

Camile Food Group partners with Kitchen United for US launch: Asian food business Camile Food Group and ghost kitchen company Kitchen United, which operates multi-concept, off-premise-only kitchens, have announced an agreement to launch Camile Thai in the United States with Kitchen United MIX. Camile Thai arrives in Chicago as a delivery and takeout-only concept, licensing exclusively at Kitchen United MIX locations. The first Camile Thai US location is Kitchen United’s newly opened Chicago Loop Kitchen Center at 205 W. Wacker Drive. The team will serve made to order, plant forward Thai dishes, with a sustainability-focused ethos. The Camile Thai and Kitchen United partnership will continue to grow throughout 2021, with new locations opening in Chicago River North, Pasadena and Austin. Since opening its first restaurant in 2010, Camile Thai has expanded to 40 locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The company was an early adopter of a hot food at home delivery model and currently serves over 10,000 meals every day to consumers across its network of franchised and company owned locations. “Kitchen United is constantly evaluating new and innovative ways to support our restaurant partners, and working with Camile Thai to present licensing opportunities to operators within our kitchen centers looking to establish a delivery-only business, or build a new segment of their existing portfolio is a perfect illustration of that,” said Atul Sood, chief business officer of Kitchen United. “While a lot of new trends and short-lived concepts have emerged in the last year amid the rise in popularity of ghost kitchens, Camile Thai offers long-term opportunity and value for operators looking to grow via a licensed model. Based on our partnership with dozens of operators and Camile Thai’s proven experience, we are well-positioned to grow together here in the US.” Camile Thai chief executive Brody Sweeney said: “We are excited to bring our concept to the US and work closely with Kitchen United given its definitive leadership position in the ghost kitchen industry, along with an impressive list of existing and prospective operator partners. The pandemic has altered how restaurants operate and given the go-ahead for virtual kitchens, without a storefront, to flourish. The rise of the on-demand economy has driven a monumental shift in traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant service. Last year saw the most significant adoption of technology in our industry’s history with volume digital food ordering and delivery at its core, and Camile Thai has been a first-mover in Europe. Additionally, we offer operator partners a flexible franchise model to position them for sustained success.”

SSP Group reports £300m loss in First Half: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has reported a loss before tax of £299.7m in the six months ended 31 March 2021. Revenue of £256.7m was down 78.8%. Like-for-like sales were down 79.0%: heavily impacted by covid-19, with material reductions in passenger numbers seen across all travel markets. The company saw a gradual recovery of passenger numbers and demand, led by domestic and leisure travel, notably in the UK and USA. In the first week of June, sales were down 70% versus 2019. The company stated: “A further 250 units re-opened since end of H1 taking total of trading outlets to circa 1,150 currently. If current trends continue, we expect to have 1,200-1,500 units open over the summer, in line with the recovery in demand.” Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP Group, said: “Despite the challenging trading conditions SSP has continued to deliver strong operational and cash control. Our teams have continued to give their utmost during this period, and I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication. The recovery in domestic and leisure travel has now begun in a number of our territories, and our teams are busy re-opening units in line with passenger demand. Over the past year we’ve strengthened our competitive advantages and created a more flexible operating model. We have a strong balance sheet and can see many opportunities to accelerate growth as the market recovers and to deliver sustainable growth for the benefit of all our stakeholders”.

Dhillon’s Brewery to open sports bar in partnership with Coventry City FC: Coventry-based Dhillon’s Brewery is to open a sports bar in partnership with Coventry City FC. Dhillon’s Brewery will open the Sky Blue Tavern in August, just in time for the start of the new football season. The naming of the new venue is an historic nod to a pub of the same name located near to Highfield Road, on the corner of Thackhall Street. The bar will be located at Hertford Place, near junction seven of Coventry Ring Road, at the old Dragon Phoenix/Bombay Palace building. The bar will have a Sky Blues theme, with historic images and memorabilia throughout the two-storey building. The brewery has worked closely with the club in recent years, creating a host of themed beers, which will all be available to purchase, alongside a variety of other drinks and a selection of food. Dhillon’s Brewery managing director Dal Dhillon told Coventry Live: “This new joint venture has been simmering in the background for a very long time and we are proud to finally announce its arrival. The Sky Blue Tavern has always been an important part of Coventry’s history. We at Dhillon’s Brewery are excited to be bringing it back to life.” Dave Boddy, chief executive of Coventry City, added: “We’re delighted to extend our partnership with Dhillon’s Brewery with this very exciting venture at the Sky Blue Tavern – a name that will resonate with many supporters.” In December, Dhillon’s Brewery opened its first bar – Dhillon’s Spire Bar – in the city centre.

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